FBI statistics show that criminal background check requests submitted for gun sales in Virginia during the first five months of this year are up 77% over the same period last year.
Robert Marcus, the owner of Bob’s Gun Shop in downtown Norfolk, said he's seen gun sales jump many times during the three decades he's owned the store, but never like this.
“It's incredible,” Marcus told The Virginian-Pilot. “There are are a lot of extraneous things going on now that have caused guns to become very desirable.”
Gun purchases first began to increase late last year, when Democrats won the majority of Virginia’s legislative seats and vowed to pass more restrictive gun laws, Marcus said.
Then in March, the coronavirus pandemic caused many to fear it would lead to civil unrest. Stimulus checks provided by the federal government also made it easier for some to fund their gun purchases.
That’s when Marcus and some other local gun shop workers say sales really skyrocketed. The FBI conducted 3.7 million background checks for firearm sales across the country in March, the highest total since it began publishing the data in 1998.
In recent weeks, protests across the country over the police killing of George Floyd appear to have sparked another surge in sales. Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.
The increased demand and social distancing guidelines have occasionally led to lines extending outside local gun stores.